We decided to do a little prequel to our homeymoon to Eastern Europe with a group of Diem's friends over Diem's birthday, also known as New Year's Eve. We were hitting Prague, Vienna, and Budapest over 9 days. I had visited Prague way back in 2001 when I was studying abroad in Seville, Spain. My friends I and went to Prague during our fall break and stayed in a hostel outside the city center. I remembered the astronomical clock, the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, and the absinthe.
This time around, my stay was a bit different. I arrived with my soon to be wife in the evening, met up with two other couples in our group and went for a walk across the Charles Bridge. The bridge is one of the famous sites around Prague and was more beautiful than I remembered. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 pretty stunning statues, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas. There were a good number of people on it but nothing like it is during the day where there is just a sea of people.
We were all hungry and ready to try the local cuisine. We picked a little restaurant on the other side of the bridge and shared the Czech special which was a variety of meats, potatoes, cabbage. It was actually really good and was a nice little opening dinner. Four of us walked back to our hotel and decided to go to the bar next door, Blue Light. The bar had old pics of US celebrities, was filled with smoke and really drunk people. Two people next to the bar kept making out and the guy had his hand down the girl’s shirt. We luckily found a seat and kept drinking and talking until about 2 AM, which may not have been the best idea for a first night.
Prague has a laundry list of incredible sights: the Charles Bridge, Old Town, the astronomical clock, Petrin Tower, Prague Castle, and the Jewish Quarter. I took a morning run up Petrin Hill which at the top has Prague's version of the Eiffel Tower. Apparently, the Czech Republic didn't have the money to make it as big as the Eiffel Tower so they built it on top of the Petrin Hill so that the top would be higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower. My biggest regret from the trip was not going up. Unfortunately I got there too early and it wasn't open and we just didn't get around to going up. I imagine the views are amazing on a clear day but we really didn't get that much sunshine there.
I also took a run around the Old Town, went by the astronomical clock and back over the Charles Bridge. I have to say that the views from the bridge are my favorite, especially in the morning when there aren't many people around. Not only are the statues on the bridge amazing, but every direction displays the amazing architecture of Prague. Facing the Lesser Town, you see the commanding Prague Castle and facing the Old Town, you see the beautiful Gothic Old Town Bridge Tower.
Because we were visiting in late December, and because we're San Diegans not acclimated to the cold, we didn't want to stay in the cold for extended periods. So, we opted for a boat tour along the Vltava River and an open air car tour. The car tour was definitely a highlight. There are tons of these companies around Prague and especially around the Charles Bridge. They are these open air classic town cars that you see in the Indiana Jones movies. We stocked up on champagne and took off around Prague, a little chilly but the sun was out and the champagne was flowing so it was manageable. We drove up to the Prague Castle but didn't actually go in. The tour didn't include it and to be honest, I've seen a lot of castles and the interiors all tend to blend together. We drove around and got to see a good portion of the city that I hadn't see before. After the tour we walked around the city a bit and stopped by the Kafka Museum where they have two pretty amazing statues of guys peeing into a fountain, equipped with moving genitalia and all.
As beautiful as the city is, the highlight for me was the dinner we had on our last night at La Degustation. While I enjoy good food, I'm not a fancy dinner guy. I've usually been very disappointed when going to expensive dinners, so I was skeptical about this one but was very pleasantly surprised. It was a nice mixture of root vegetables, foie gras, well prepared proteins, and light, delicious desserts. You can see more pics of the dinner and more details here. At the end of our time in Prague, I thought that this would be a city I could live in in Eastern Europe. It has beautiful architecture, great food, and is relatively inexpensive for Europe. That is, until we went to Budapest.